What is rapid community testing?
From April 9, everyone is being encouraged to take rapid Covid-19 tests at home twice a week to help stop the virus from spreading.
The test kits, called Lateral Flow Tests (LFT), are easy to use and require people to simply swab their nose and throat and then wait 30 minutes for a result, which they register with NHS Test & Trace through an app or website.
They used to be offered only to frontline and essential workers who cannot work from home, as well as schoolchildren and their families, but now every person over the age of 18 can access them.
One in three people with the virus show no symptoms meaning they go about their daily lives unaware they are spreading it.
These rapid tests help identify asymptomatic cases so they can self-isolate and stop the spread.
There are a number of ways people can access rapid testing:
- Collection sites - you can find your nearest one online. Some sites only open after 2.30pm and may appear closed if you view them in the morning.
- Collection from pharmacies. View the online map to see if there is one in your area.
- If you can’t make use of these options, you can order tests to be delivered to your home from the gov.uk website.
Anyone who tests positive with an LFT must self-isolate immediately and arrange to have a confirmatory PCR test by booking a test through the gov.uk website or by calling 119.
The more people who get into the habit of testing twice a week, the quicker we can ease our way out of lockdown.
Rapid testing for businesses
Businesses can now access free twice-weekly rapid testing for their staff.
This gives them the best chance of catching cases early, avoiding a workplace outbreak and continuing to operate as normal.
The options for this are:
- Apply to have tests delivered for your staff to take at home by signing up to the Government scheme online
- Encourage staff to use one of the other options for accessing rapid tests listed above in the ‘What is rapid community testing and how can I access it?’ section.
Staff working in primary and secondary schools, along with college staff, are asked to take two Covid-19 tests each week at home.
On top of this, all secondary school and college students are being offered three Covid-19 tests.
The government has made available two rapid tests that students can take each week at home.
Testing remains voluntary but it is strongly encouraged. Students will not be tested unless they or their parent or carer has given informed consent.
Those who test positive with the Lateral Flow Tests will be asked to book in for an additional PCR test and will need to self-isolate.
There are currently no plans to carry out regular asymptomatic testing for primary school pupils, but tests are available for their parents (and all adults over 18 years of age) who are encouraged to use them twice a week.
See the section on ‘What is rapid community testing and how can I access it?’ for information on how to get hold of the free tests.
What is a lateral flow device and how does it work?
Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) are a type of technology that allow rapid testing for Covid‐19. The swab is inserted into the nose and throat and then put into a fluid and some drops of this are put on a lateral flow device which looks similar to a pregnancy test. This then gives a result in the form of coloured lines indicating a positive or negative result, usually within an hour (the most commonly used test will give a result in about 30 mins).
How is a Lateral Flow device different to a PCR test?
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing has been available now since summer last year to anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 either by attending one of the sites across Cornwall or by ordering a home test.
The PCR test is the “gold standard” for testing but the results need to be processed in a laboratory and so it usually takes between 24 to 72 hours for someone in the community to get their test result back. This does not matter for people who have symptoms as they should be at home self-isolating while they wait for their test result.
Lateral Flow Devices use a similar swab to collect the sample, but swabs processed using LFDs provide results quickly. This is why they have a use for people who do not have symptoms but who are still infectious because, even though they miss some people who have the virus, they can identify people who did not know they were infected. If these people isolate quickly they can avoid passing the virus on to other people.
How effective is rapid testing?
No test is perfect. The most accurate test we have for COVID-19 is the “PCR” test that is available when people have symptoms. Test results can take a day or so to come back, but are usually very accurate and means that people can be reasonably confident in these results and continue to self-isolate if it comes back positive.
Lateral flow devices can give a much quicker result (usually within an hour) but these tests are not as accurate as PCR tests. A negative LFD test is not a guarantee that you do not have the virus: however, lateral flow tests tend to detect individuals in their most infectious period. As 1 in 3 people may have the virus and never get symptoms, this can be a useful tool in the box to find extra cases of COVID-19 before the virus is passed on.
In an evaluation of the mass community testing pilot in Liverpool, compared to PCR tests, these tests picked up 5 out of 10 of the cases that PCR tests detected and more than 7 out of 10 cases with higher viral loads (amounts of the virus in their nose and throat), who are likely to be the most infectious. This means that the tests missed 3 to 5 out of every ten people with the virus.
Because of this, people need to both still continue to “act like they have the virus” even if their test result is negative and ensure that they wash their hands, socially distance and wear face coverings. Also, this means regular testing is key, as if you are having contacts with other people regularly, you could have caught the virus and start to pass it on, even if a recent test showed you are negative.
How often should I be tested?
People wanting to be tested need to commit to having two tests per week.
What type of LFD tests are being used?
The Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test is the testing kit used in this programme.
How long does it take to do the test and how long does it take to get the result?
It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the lateral flow device test. The test takes around 30 minutes to produce a result and you'll be notified of your result by email or text message.
What should I do if I test positive?
If your test is positive you must self isolate straight away. This is a legal requirement. You'll need to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the first test along with all those you live with. You will become eligible for support payments and your contacts will need to be traced.
If I get a positive test from an LFD, do my contacts still have to self-isolate?
Yes. The rules for LFDs are that anybody you have been in close contact with for 48 hours before, including and after when you took your test needs to self-isolate for 10 days. If you get a positive LFD test you will need to go home immediately and self-isolate. You will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace in the same way as if you had symptoms.
What financial support is available if I have to isolate?
More information on financial support through the nation test and trace payment support, and other Cornwall Council support can be found on our Coronavirus and benefits webpage.
If I get a negative test, can I hug my friends/relatives or ignore social distancing?
No. It is important to remember that the LFDs can miss people who are positive (a false-negative result). Even with a negative test, you must still act like you have the virus and keep socially distanced from others, wash your hands and wear face coverings. Regular testing with LFDs does not stop you getting the virus, and is about helping to pick up as soon as possible if you have the virus so you don’t spread it to others. Even if the negative result is accurate and you do not have COVID-19 when you take the test, you might already have caught the virus and be incubating it – this means that you might start to be infectious soon after your test – so keep acting like you have it!
What happens if my test is negative, but I have coronavirus symptoms?
If you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, you must book a PCR test via the gov.uk website or by calling 119 if you can't get online, as soon as possible. You and your household must isolate immediately until you receive your results.
Will regular LFD testing allow me to go back to a more normal way of life?
No. LFD testing is very good at identifying those with a high positivity of Covid-19 so that they can isolate as soon as possible to stop the spread of Covid. If you receive a negative LFD test this does not guarantee that you do not have Covid-19. You may have a very low positivity which has not been picked up by the LFD test. You must continue to practice all infection control and national guidelines both in and outside of work.
Will LFDs pick up the new strains of Covid-19?
Yes the LFDs will pick up the new strain.
Is it compulsory to take this test?
No. We're hoping that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities.
Why should people take part?
We aim to identify people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but who are infectious and could spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread.
Should I still go for testing if I've received the COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes, people who have been vaccinated should continue with all current guidance and advice with regards to COVID-19 restrictions; this includes testing.